Gangsters and Gunshots

This week in the EC (Emergency Centre) has been fantastic but pretty bloody. In Cape Flats, there is a gang war going on between the “Americans” and the “hard-livings.” One of the top gangsters in the Americans is getting released from jail a few years early; he will be out in two weeks. Right now, there is a struggle for territory between the two gangs and the Americans want to gain as much land as they can before their leader is released. Besides hearing gunshots farely frequently, being in the EC has given me the opportunity to actually see most of the gunshots I hear.

I have gotten pretty dang frustrated though because guess what, the gangsters are not the ones who are dying and getting shot; its the innocent bystanders who are paying the price. My first gunshot patient was a very sweet 52 year old lady who was at work, I think she is a painter, when she got hit by a stray bullet in the ankle. This woman could not have been nicer, but she was so shocked that she actually got hit by a bullet. When she came in, I had to put pressure on the wound with gause, and then I had to hold her foot while they put on a caste. The whole time the woman kept trying to hold my hand; while they were putting on the caste (which is called a Pop here in SA), I was able to give her my hand to squeeze. This woman could not have been kinder and she was a great patient, so letting her squeeze my hand was not a problem, but later that day I seriously regret letting another patient squeeze my hand.

Something I don’t think I have written about yet is the rediculous driving here in SA. Yes, believe it or not all of you who think I am a horrible driver, I have driven here (both in Durban and Cape Town). Now driving on the opposite side of the road is not the hardest part; the people and minibuses going all over the road is what is absolutely insane. In fact, in Durban the taxi (minibus) drivers rule the city; police are not allowed to fine or give them tickets because without the taxi drivers no one can get to work. So, the minibuses drive through red lights, cut you off, and stop all the time in the middle of the road. My patient was a pedestrian who was a victim of a hit and run. Both his tibia and fibula were broken forward and he had a huge gash on his leg above the fractures. His hand was also destroyed with multiple fractures and one of the craziest wounds I have seen yet, but for my lovely godmother Idelle I won’t go into further detail. I had to hold this man’s broken leg for a little over 1.5 hours. If I moved he screamed. Me and this patient ended up getting along, but I’m pretty sure he hated my guts in the beginning.

The last patient whom I referred to early is the only person I have seen who made my jaw completely drop (luckily I had on my TB mask so I still looked professional). This man was outside Shoprite (a grocery store) when he was hit by a stray bullet. He had both an entry and exit wound, THROUGH HIS HEAD. This man, I just don’t even know how to describe it, but woah. The doctors ran to CT once he was stabilized which left me alone in the room with him. He kept trying to get up and pull out his IVs so I had to keep him down. When the doctors finally came back, they had to put in another IV. While they put in another IV, I let him squeeze my hand. BIG MISTAKE. He dug his nails into my palm as hard as he possibly could causing me to let out a small yelp. It took two people to get him to release his grip on me. When we wheeled him to CT (CT scan), he started vomitting a lot of blood. I had the airbag so we could recuss him if needed. I stepped in the blood. However, seeing his CT scan was incredible. There were fragments throughout his brain yet this man was talking! I tried to find out today what happened to this man, but he was transferred to a new hospital with a neurosurgeon.

My week in EC was crazy and I definitely learned a lot, but I’m very curious what the next two weeks will hold with the head American getting released after an 8 year term!

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